Tag Archives: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

New Favorites for 2013

6 Jan
Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'photo courtesy AAS

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
photo courtesy AAS

Not only do I love getting the new garden catalogs for the year, I love to learn about the new varieties that are available.  Even though I have my favorites that I will forever plant year after year at My Urban Farmscape, I can’t wait for the season to begin so I can try something new.  I have already started my seed sowing calendar and have realized that it’s almost time to start the majority of my veggie, herb and flower seeds.  It’s this time of year when my family learns to deal with my obsession and continuous conversations with them (and sometimes, well mostly, with myself) about what gardening or plant related thoughts are in my head.

Really, just this morning I blurted out, “I need to get those seeds planted in the next few weeks if they are going to bloom this year.”

My husband’s eyes glazed over as he asked, “What are you talking about?”

“This Echinacea ‘Cheyene Spirit’  is absolutely beautiful, and I need to find a place grow a big patch of it, just a few feet, maybe five along the fence, and it should bloom the first year when planted from seed, but I have to get it sowed by the middle of this month.  Oh my!  Look at all the colors, red, pink, yellow, orange, purple and white which will grow really good in that hot sunny spot next to the house.  Oh!  The bees and butterflies will LOVE them, I can see that late summer cut flower bouquet now..…..”  I realized he wasn’t listening, but continued to talk out loud to myself.  “It’s also one of the 2013 All-American Selection winners!”

Tomato 'Jasper'photo courtesy AAS

Tomato ‘Jasper’
photo courtesy AAS

My excitement continued with another 2013 AAS winner that was bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  A bright red cherry tomato ‘Jasper’, an F1 hybrid which is also certified organic.  Nice!  An intermediate growing cherry tomato needing to be staked which should produce fruit 90 days from sowing seeds.  Johnny’s and AAS described the flavor having a “sweet, rich taste”.  I think that I need to try this one.  I’m sure I can fit it in somewhere.

Now thinking about tomatoes reminded me about the grafted tomato plants available from Burpee.  I called out to my husband, “Can you believe they are grafting tomatoes like they graft fruit trees?!”  No response.  I have found this to be very interesting, reading about it for the past few years and decided this is the year to buy a few plants.  Simply put, an heirloom variety is the plant on the top, so you get the delicious heirloom flavor, but the roots are from a hybrid that will provide increased disease resistance.  Wow!  The original pink Brandywine will be my first choice.  You can purchase these directly from Burpee.com or possibly your local garden retailer.

Burpee's 'Bumper Crop' grafted tomatophoto courtesy Burpee

Burpee’s ‘Bumper Crop’ grafted tomato
photo courtesy Burpee

I came across a new heirloom pickling cucumber ‘Miniature White’ from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Not only is the flesh a creamy white, but the skin is also a creamy white.  That should look nice against the green foliage.  I thought that this may make an interesting addition to the garden as they say it is a high producer and grows good in a container.  I was even more excited when I read about it seldom growing more than 3 feet!  A true bonus for any Urban Farmscape.  I became distracted wondering what color container I should plant it in and decided to go outside and rummage around the garage.  I could always paint it if I didn’t have the right color.  Orange?  Maybe purple.  That would really stand out.  Not too many purple things in the garden.  I don’t know.  I decided to go in and ask my husband what color he thought would look good.  I don’t know if he’ll respond, but I know that at least he’ll smile.

Building a Cold Frame

16 Sep

I was driving around northern Michigan today and noticed some of the leaves starting to change color. Then I realized that with the first frost date rapidly approaching, it was time to think about protecting my garden. Plants such as basil and peppers won’t tolerate temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit let alone a frost. I suddenly felt the urgent need to harvest everything before it was too late.

You can extend your growing season long into the fall, maybe into winter in a small unheated greenhouse or cold frame for some crops such as carrots, beets, spinach and arugula. Remember how early spring came? I got so tired of covering and uncovering plants. Hot, cold, hot cold. Well, nighttime temperatures are what you need to pay close attention to now, and the covering and uncovering is about to start again. If it is going to dip down below that magic 50 degrees, protect your warm season vegetables like tomatoes which can tolerate an occasional dip, but then you will start to notice how the fruits stop maturing and they aren’t turning red. Best to pick them and make some fried green tomatoes. If you want to seriously continue to garden and save what you can, you can build a simple cold frame. WARNING!!! You can now cook your cool season crops on a sunny day. So not only do you need to keep them warm at night, you need to keep them cool on a sunny day. For now, protect with newspaper or lightweight fabric such as a frost cloth which is available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Protect this way on these occasional frosty nights, and prepare for colder temperatures by building a simple cold frame like I did here.

I cut 1/2 inch PVC pipes 10 feet long. Since my beds are raised it was easy to push them into the ground on one side. The bed that I am working on is 4 feet by 8 feet. I have equally spaced 5 PVC pipes (you only see part of it here).

I bent the PVC around and pushed into the ground on the opposite side of the bed.

I secured the PVC to the inside of the raised bed using this galvanized piece.

Then I used zip ties to secure an 8 foot pipe to the top. I would recommend adding a screw to prevent it from sliding down the sides.

Cover with poly. Here I used a horticultural grade poly that I had left over from a greenhouse we built at our farm. You can buy this at greenhouse supply companies or catalogs like Farm-Tek. More light penetrates, which is important for plant growth and development.

Notice how transparent it is.

This was an inexpensive alternative using painters plastic from the hardware.

For finishing touches, you can use scrap pieces of wood screwed to the bed frame to secure the poly at the bottoms. I used pink foam insulation pieces for the ends to make it easier to remove on sunny days to prevent the temperatures from getting too high.

This was the simplest and most inexpensive way that I came up with to make a cold frame. There are many other options to explore whether you want to protect your crops, extend your season, or get a jump on next year. Click on the Grow Veg link to the right, or below on the links to go to Amazon for my favorite books to learn more. Or the last link to a Juwel Cold Frame like the one you see in the background of the above picture. This is one of my favorite cold frames. Just ignore the snow for now. We still have a lot of time before that gets here.

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live

Juwel Cold Frame 1000

Seed Sowing Calendar

15 Jan

“A garden is half-made when it is well planned.  The best gardener

is the one who does the most gardening by the winter fire.” 

~Liberty Hyde Bailey




Seed packets and seed starting supplies are beginning to pile up around my house.  Soon there will be hundreds of little plants in sunny window sills and sprouting under grow lights.  I’m already anxious for spring, but know that I need to wait until the right time to get started.  After doing an inventory of seeds, and ordering what I want for this year, it’s time to plan my seed sowing calendar. 

When preparing to sow seeds, you need to start at the end by thinking of when it’s safe to plant them outside.  Our frost free date here in Mid-Michigan is about May 13th.  This is a good time to plant most vegetables and flowers outside without worrying about the dangers of frost.  Eggplant, peppers and basil don’t do well in cool soils or air temperatures.  I have had better luck waiting until Memorial Day weekend to plant those outside.  Or, you could use season extension techniques which I will talk about closer to planting time.  What about cooler season crops?  Spinach, arugula, lettuce, beets, peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, chives, cilantro and violas are just a few that can be planted outside in April, about the first or second week. So, should you start sowing all the seeds you have right now?  How to you figure out what to sow when?

            First things first.  Get a calendar.  A really big one that you can write all over and see every day.  Or, if you prefer, a planner type calendar, or a spread sheet.  Whatever works best for you.  Mark your first frost free date.  That is going to be your starting point.  You can also add something like, “Plant Cool Season Crops” on a day in the first two weeks of April, and then around Memorial Day, “Plant Warm Season Crops” so you know when to plant out eggplant, peppers and basil.  I am going to use tomatoes as an example to get you started.  When you look at the cultural information for tomatoes, typically it will say start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost.  Starting on the calendar at May 13, you will count backwards 6-8 weeks.  So any time between March 18th and April 1st would be an ideal time to start your tomato seeds indoors.  Continue to do this with everything you are going to grow.  Some seeds, such as beans or nasturtium do best planted directly in the garden so don’t start them indoors.  Follow directions from your seed supplier, or better yet, get the book The Seed Starters Handbook  by Nancy Bubel.  She covers in detail everything you need to know about seeds.  A must have resource for every Urban Farmscaper.  As you continue to work on your seed sowing calendar, you will probably start to notice that, with a few exceptions, most seeds will need to be started in March.  Some cool season crops such as broccoli will be started at the end of February. Your calendar will also serve as your planting calendar and a record for future years, so take good notes.  You should start shopping around for seed starting supplies such as “No Damp Off” seed starting mix by Mosser Lee, Heat Mats, Seeding Trays (like the 20 row seeder available at Johnny’s Selected Seeds) and full spectrum fluorescent lights.  Soon I will be sharing with you my tips and tricks for success as I start sowing my seeds.

Is it the Seed or the Plant?

5 Jan

Think about it. You need seeds to grow plants, but then you need flowering plants to make fruit that holds the seeds. What came first? The seed or the plant?

And how do you grow seedless vegetables and fruit? Companies are actually creating plants that flower, and make seeds, but they aren’t viable. It’s a flowers job to reproduce and create lots of seed to ensure it continues to exist. Think dandelion. Does that make sense?

Long, long ago, in the Kingdom of Plantae, there first existed non-vascular (no xylem or phloem to transport water or food or roots) plants called Bryophytes (think mosses and liverworts). They reproduced with the help of water splashing male gametophytes to female gametophytes. Soon evolved Seedless Vascular Plants (plants with xylem and phloem) that reproduced by the production of thousands of spores that drop to the ground at the right time ( brown spots under leaves of ferns). Lastley, plants evolved into Seeded Vascular Plants producing seeds in cones (pine trees) and seeds in fruits of flowering woody and herbaceous plants (trees, shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers). Oversimplified, yes, but does it answer the question? Maybe.

Moss sp. showing reproductive organs.

Moss sp. showing reproductive organs.

Photo courtesy of Derek Shiels

While you contemplate on this, you need to get a jump on getting your seed catalogs if you haven’t already. Whether you are going to start seeds or not (I will teach you how later, so you might as well order some) the catalogs offer a lot of great cultural information. You can order seed catalogs or download them from the company’s website. While thumbing your way through, pay attention to container or climing tall varieties. They take up less space which is something you need to think about when planning your Urban Farmscapes. Look for seeds and seed companies that are certified organic. Starting with organic seed is the best choice. They should carry the standard logo on their label such as I have here.

Also look for heirloom, open pollinated seed. This way you will be able to collect seed to use for next year (I will teach you how to do that later too). Heirlooms are old fashioned varieties that pollinate freely and have been collected and saved over time. These would be the plants our grandparents and great grandparents grew. If you see a hybrid, sometimes called an F1 Hybrid, this means it is a cross between two or more other varieties. In flowers for example, if you cross a white petunia with a purple petunia, you may get striped white and purple petunias or lavender colored petunias. Is this bad? Nope. People have been creating hybrids throughout history trying to improve something about them. Tomatoes have been bred to last longer on the grocery store shelves, thus sacrificing flavor. Who wants a tomato that doesn’t taste good, but can sit on a shelf for a long time? Can you get organic F1 hybrid seed? Yes. But you won’t want to collect hybrid seed because the seed you may get could be the original variety that was crossed to get the hybrid. Make sense? Again, I am oversimplifying while trying to explain the world of plant genetics and seeds. Send me a question or comment if you want to discuss further.

I have become obsessed with growing heirloom varieties and collecting seed, but still need (well, want, maybe not need) seed each year. Here are a few of my favorite seed companies.

photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds

Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers a large selection of organic and heirloom vegetable, herb, and flower seeds as well as fruit plants. They also carry small farm and gardening supplies,along with tools designed by Eliot Coleman. Great quality and service in business since 1973. The employee owned company is located in Maine. The best resource I have found so far for cultural information. You will save this catalog and use as a reference! Awesome online resources. In my garden I will be growing many peppers that are recommended by Johnny’s for containers, along with many other yummy things. Johnny’s has been my favorite seed source for as long as I have been gardening.

www.johnnyseeds.com (877) 564-6697

Photos courtesy of Baker Creek

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. The life forces behind this fourteen year old company are Jere and Emilee Gettle who produce only heirloom varieties. You should buy their book and to learn more about heirlooms and their whole story. The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere & Emilee Gettle with Meghan Sutherland is available on their website and other book buying venues. Not only is it a story about Baker Creek and the importance of growing heirloom varieties, it has an A to Z Growing Guide for their favorite fifty crops that include the history and uses of the plant, growing tips, pests and diseases, seed saving and preparing it to eat. AWESOME! In my garden this year I am going to grow their Top 10 Favorite Container Plants that is discussed in their book in chapter 7 titled, “City Farmer”. Buy the book. You won’t be disappointed.

www.rareseeds.com (417) 924-8917

While I’m on the subject of heirloom and open pollinated seeds, check out Seed Savers Exchange. I would definitely have to agree with them as being the nation’s premier seed saving organization. Located in Decorah, Iowa since 1975, they are a seed saving non-profit member organization collecting and selling seed to help fund their preservation efforts. I have always wanted to visit their Heritage Farm headquarters or attend one of their special events. If you don’t want to start your own seed, then you could opt to buy transplants from them. They grow and sell several heirloom pepper transplants as well as heirloom tomato varieties like Cherokee Purple and Hungarian Heart. These won’t be at any garden center I know of. You don’t have to be a member to order from their catalog, but if you do become a member, you will receive 10% off of your order!

www.seedsavers.org (563) 382-5990

Seeds of Change. Located in New Mexico, probably one of the first organic seed companies in business since 1989. They have taken the Safe Seed Pledge and donate 1% of their net sales to advance the efforts of sustainable agriculture across the world. A very philanthropic company. They have identified vegetable varieties for “Space Challenged Gardening” which is what most of us Urban Farmscapers are dealing with.

www.seedsofchange.com (888) 762-7333

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Based in California. Organic seeds, plants, tools and fun gardening stuff. You can even get 10 Fruit Trees delivered for $199 ! That is, if you have room. I planted four varieties of garlic and one type of shallot this past autumn that I ordered as a Garlic Combo Pack. If you want to grow garlic, keep in mind that you plant it in the autumn.

www.groworganic.com (888) 784-1722

Order your seeds soon to make sure you get the variety you want. Soon I will guide you through successful seed starting indoors!

%d bloggers like this: